31 January 2012

High Halstow Walkers – February Walk

Details have now come through about forthcoming walks organised by the High Halstow Walkers right through from February to July.

The next walk is taking place on Sunday 12 February, and will start at 10am from Sutton Valence for a 5 mile wander through some classic Kent countryside to Ulcombe. The return journey in particular has lovely views from the Greensand Way. There is one modest slope and some of the paths are likely to be a bit muddy, so be sure to wear suitable clothing and footwear!

Sutton Valance can be reached by taking the A274 from Maidstone. Take a left turn at the start of the hill as you come into the High Street (where cars should be parked). If you are joining the walk, please gather near the old church in the centre of the village.

Other walks taking place in 2012 are listed below. The start time for each walk is 10am, but confirmation of this, and starting points, will be added to this website every month.

11 March - Brickhouse Farm (between St Mary Hoo and Allhallows) to River Thames and St Mary's Bay. 15 April - Upnor and the River Medway. 13 May - Cranbrook and Sissinghurst. 10 June - To be announced. 8 July - High Halstow to Egypt Bay.

If you’d like to find out more about the High Halstow Walkers, get in touch with Mitchell by phoning 01634 254428 or send him an email here.

30 January 2012

Allhallows Life - February Edition

The February edition of Allhallows Life is now available. Click the image below to see the full copy.

This month’s edition includes a notice about the next meeting of the new Allhallows History Club on 12 February, news and event dates from Allhallows Youth Club, a list of Sunday services at All Saints Church and many other reports and updates. In particular there is an update on the Project Morning, with the next session being held on 11 February.

Allhallows Life is the magazine of Allhallows Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here. The magazine also features items from St. Mary Hoo Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here.

29 January 2012

Getting creative with the Higham Craft Club in Hoo!

Looking to do something a little bit creative?

Well, the Higham Craft Club might just have what you’re after. From this Wednesday they will be hosting a fortnightly Card and Craft class, at Taggs Coffee Shop in Hoo.

If you’re interested, click the image below to find out more.


26 January 2012

Walking in the footsteps of Charles Dickens!

I met up for a coffee and a chat earlier today with Rolf Williams from the RSPB.

He told me all about a special walk taking place at the RSPB Northward Hill nature reserve on Thursday 2 February - in celebration of Charles Dickens and his association with the peninsula.

In the week that we'll be celebrating Dickens’ 200th birthday, the RSPB is offering unique access to a part of the marsh at Northward Hill that is normally closed to the public.

The walk will be a 3 mile round trip, taking in the heart of the grazing marsh that was the inspiration for the opening scenes of ‘Great Expectations’.

There will be a chance to look at local wildlife habitats and some interesting buildings, and I know Rolf and his team will be able to give insights into the natural history of the area along the way.

Rolf has told me those taking part might be lucky enough to see marsh harrier, lapwing, buzzard (possibly the rare rough-legged buzzard) and Northward Hill’s iconic grey heron.

This walk seems a great opportunity to learn more about the story of the Thames marshes and the complex mix of nature and human intervention spanning thousands of years.

So it won't just provide information about the wildlife, as there will be recitals marking different periods of the area’s past, present . . . and future!

The walk will start at 10am at the main car park at Bromhey Farm. Too early? All for those who prefer their fresh air in the afternoon, the walk will be repeated at 1pm.

Please don’t forget to wear stout footwear, preferably wellies or walking boots. And wrap up warmly, as it can get very windy out on the marsh even if it seems generally mild.

So, what are you waiting for?

Sign up by contacting Rolf and the RSPB team by ringing 01634 222480 or send an email here.

Please note: The ticket price for this event will be £6 for adults and £5 for children. RSPB members receive the discounted rate of £2. Anyone who decide to join the RSPB on the day will receive a full refund.

24 January 2012

Cleaning up the Hoo Peninsula

There was quite a bit of community activity taking place on the Hoo Peninsula a couple of weekends ago - with ‘action days’ taking place in Allhallows, High Halstow and Hoo. The main aim in each area was to clean up litter and make things look a bit better.

In Allhallows, the Parish Council organised their fourth Project Morning - attracting 20 local volunteers, who bagged 28 sacks of rubbish. They also picked up a few bulky items, including a bed frame, traffic cone, suitcase and a torso of a life size wooden soldier!!!

The next Project Morning in Allhallows is on Saturday 11 February - meeting at Allhallows Village Hall (Stoke Road) at 8.30am. For more information, get in touch with the Parish Council by emailing here.

In Hoo, residents collected 25 bags of rubbish and an oil drum - with efforts targeted around the Village Square car park.

The next Hoo Clean Up will take place on Saturday 24 March - meeting at Hoo Village Hall (Pottery Road) at 9.30am. For more information contact Tony on 01634 255694 or by email here.

And in High Halstow, the Parish Council and local volunteers carried on with their community action, which they’ve been doing for many years - with picking up litter, repairing fences, improving playgrounds and clearing wooded walks just some of the tasks they carry out. The sessions are known as Project 90 - representing the number of minutes that each volunteer gives at each session.

Here are some photographs of previous Project 90 sessions.

The next Project 90 event in High Halstow will take place on Saturday 11 February - meeting at High Halstow Village Hall at 8.30am. For more information, get in touch with the Parish Council by emailing here.

There’ll be a special report about High Halstow’s Project 90 added to this website later this week!

23 January 2012

RSPB January newsletter (On the Marshes) out now!!

The January edition of the RSPB’s newsletter for the North Kent area, ‘On the Marshes’, is out now - just click the image below to download a copy!

Visit the websites of the local RSPB groups: Gravesend and Medway.

22 January 2012

Join the Isle of Grain Youth Football Club!

Following a very successful and enthusiastic first year, the Isle of Grain Youth Football Club is inviting children of all ages to join up and get involved.

The Club also runs a popular Soccer School every Saturday morning, from 10.30am until 12.30pm, at Seaview Meadows (Langs Field), Isle of Grain. And as a member of the North Kent Football League there are matches most Sundays during the football season.

With experienced coaches and managers available, no previous training or experience is required - and new children can just turn up! Soccer School subs are £2.50 per session, but the first session is free.

If you’re interested, or would like further details, contact Sarah Ball, Club Secretary, on 07538 719200, or by emailing here. Alternatively, just pop along on a Saturday morning and see what they’re all about!

Variety is the spice of life in High Halstow!

Okay, I hope I can be forgiven for this blatant advert - but it’s always good to be able to promote new enterprise on the peninsula!

In case you weren’t aware, the Red Dog is the only pub in High Halstow village and, to add some variety to the mix, their restaurant is now run by Spice Fusion.

The pub is a regular stop for the many people who enjoy walking and cycling around the northern peninsula - exploring the many local walks and views, or those who visit the impressive RSPB Northward Hill nature reserve.

I popped in yesterday for a swift one and picked up a leaflet about the new Spice Fusion restaurant. It all sounds very tasty! Check out their full menu by clicking here.

So, if you fancy something spicy with your pint - High Halstow is the place to be!

20 January 2012

Lots to do in High Halstow!

The High Halstow Times will return in February, so in the meantime I thought I'd mention some of the events and activities taking place in the village.

Making a return to the Village Hall on Saturday 4 February will be the Farmers’ Market, from 9.30am to 11.30am. There’ll be lots of stalls and a chance of winning a £30 voucher (from Denis Hills the Butchers) in the raffle.

Click the image below to find out more about the Farmers’ Market.

Thought Christmas was over? Well it isn't in High Halstow!

If you haven’t yet booked to see the Dramarama panto, you might still be in time to get a ticket!

Performances of Aladdin will be taking place on Thursday 26th at 7.30pm, Friday 27th at 7.30pm and on Saturday 28th at 2pm (matinee) and at 7.30pm.

Tickets are only £4, so just click the image below to find out more!

To read more about what is happening in the village, visit the website for High Halstow Parish Council. You’ll find details about the special February promotions offered by the new Spice Fusion restaurant at the Red Dog, the latest news and views about the Lodge Hill development, updates on the ongoing refurbishments at the Village Hall and much more!

Allhallows Life - January Edition

I’m a bit late this month adding the latest (January) edition of Allhallows Life. Click the image below to see the full copy.

This month’s edition includes information about criminal incidents that have occurred at All Saints Church, a special report about Allhallows Youth Club celebrating its second birthday, a list of Sunday services at All Saints Church and many other reports and updates.

Allhallows Life is the magazine of Allhallows Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here. The magazine also features items from St. Mary Hoo Parish Council. Take a look at their website by clicking here.

19 January 2012

Cleaning up Grain Coastal Park

The first Grain Coastal Park volunteer activity day of 2012 took place last Sunday. There were almost 20 along to help out - of all ages, from across the peninsula.

We concentrated on litter picking this time and I'm sorry to say that we managed to fill 12 sacks of rubbish in just a couple of hours, from the area around the car park and along the beach. We also collected 3 tyres, a flower pot and an old fire extinguisher!

After a break for coffee and cake, the group had a quick tour of a proposed woodland walk, led by Michael Dale. On future activity days we'll be asking for help to create this walk, making this lovely area more accessible.

One of the volunteers was ‘Dave the Dog’.

Whilst Dave didn’t seem too happy to stand around posing for photos, he did manage to get his paws dirty - clearly much more fun!

Activity days are planned to take place every month. There will be a focus on a few specific tasks each month, but volunteers can choose what they would like to do.

Tasks will include more litter picks, clearing wooded walks, painting and clearing scrub etc.

So for those who think litter picking is a bit easy, there will be plenty of chances to get your hands dirty and burn off some calories!

And there will also be opportunities to learn about marine wildlife and local natural history - a great reason to bring along children or grandchildren and help them get interested in our unique and special environment.

Want to take an active role in organising activities?

A number of the volunteers are planning on setting up a 'Friends of Grain Coastal Park' group to help co-ordinate activities. Let me know if your are interested in this (contact details below).

The next activity day will be Sunday 19 February, from 10.30am onwards.

More information will be added to this website shortly, but it will probably include improving one of the woodland walks we looked at this time.

If you would like to know more about these Volunteer Activity Days, or if you are able to help in some other way, please get in touch with Michael on 01634 270314 (email) or Tony on 01634 255694 (email).

17 January 2012

Who do you think you are?

My father came to stay for several days over the Christmas holiday and he was keen to take another look round the peninsula and the places where our ancestors lived and worked. And maybe do a little research too.

Having a quick look around Upnor High Street

With the BBC’s recent adaptation of Great Expectations, and its desolate scenes of the marshes, spurring our imaginations about how our ancestors might have lived, St. James’ Church in Cooling was the obvious place to start the tour. It’s always good to take in the views from the Church and imagine how different things would have looked in Dickens’ time, before the sea defences changed the landscape so much.

In Lower Stoke we took time to look at the building site that was, until a few years ago, the location of The Ship pub. The pub was run, from 1889 to 1901, by my great great grandfather Henry Spencer - one of my father’s favourite ancestors. I think it might have something to do with their shared experience in the victualling trade.

All the talk and memories of running pubs made my father keen to have his photo taken in front of one - so we opted for The Nags Head (opposite where The Ship once stood). The Nags Head is known for having played host to the famous painter and satirist William Hogarth, back in 1732. Hogarth stayed here, as part of a 5-day tour of Kent with four friends, before reaching the Isle of Grain (where he stayed another night) and then headed on to the Isle of Sheppey.

We then went up the road to Upper Stoke, to pay our respects at the grave of Henry Spencer (he of The Ship), which is in the graveyard of the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. We also took a look at a gravestone which evokes thoughts about a time of great tragedy in our family’s history.

The ‘Watson children’ gravestone, nestled beneath the tree my father is pictured standing by, soberly lists the names of six children (all of whom would have been my father’s great uncles and aunts had they lived), who died in the space of a few short years between 1871 and 1882. The children were aged between 1 and 19, and there was also a baby just a few weeks old.

We then had a look inside the Church itself, where my father chatted to one of the church volunteers, who asked him his family name. Without prompting, he asked if we were related to an ‘old boy of Stoke’, who went by the nickname of ‘Stumpy’ Watson. My father almost passed out at the mention of ‘Stumpy’, as we have been researching him for a while with little success. We don’t know whether we are definitely connected, but have been trying to find out more about him. He was clearly a well known chap.

I then took a quick photo of my father outside The White Horse pub, also in Upper Stoke. His grandfather ran this pub very briefly from November 1904 to January 1907. The tale behind such a short tenure will have to keep for another time!

The last stop of the day, before heading back home for a cuppa in Hoo, was the Isle of Grain and the Coastal Park. I showed him some of the things improved by the work of volunteers over the past year or so.

Another really useful day out on the peninsula!

12 January 2012

Hoo Youth Club is every Wednesday night – take note!

Wednesday night in Hoo means only one thing if you're aged between 12 and 18 - it’s Youth Club night at Pottery Road!

I went along to Hoo Village Hall last night and the place was buzzing when I arrived. There was quite a bit going on - computer games, pool, football, table tennis, a Connexions job shop and lots of other fun stuff too. I felt worn out just walking through the door!

It was good being able to listen to what local kids had to say about living in Hoo - with topics ranging from a Thames Estuary airport, to things they’d like to see in the village for young people.

The Youth Club takes place every Wednesday, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm, at the Jubilee Hall (part of the Village Hall) along Pottery Road. The poster below gives more information about the type of activities available.

I also had a good chat with the Youth Club’s organiser, Lindsay Hartney, who is Medway Council’s Youth Detached Worker for Hoo. If you’d like to find out more, or if you know someone that might want to get involved, contact Lindsay by phoning 07795 236289.

Thank you Peel Ports!

I’m pleased to report that Peel Ports (Medway) have kindly agreed to donate equipment and tools, worth £500, to the Grain Coastal Park volunteer activity days.

This donation will help volunteers with many important tasks and is therefore much appreciated.

If you’d like to ‘get your hands dirty’ at Grain Coastal Park, starting this Sunday (15 January), you can find out more by clicking here - or just click the image below.

I hope to see you there!

10 January 2012

Research your local history with the Time and Tides project . . .

A local history and arts project, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Medway Council and the Icon Theatre (Chatham) will be launched later this month. The project will offer local residents the chance to research their local history and take part in arts and drama activities.

There will be three launch events, taking place in Cuxton, High Halstow and Upnor - giving all those attending a chance to see objects from the local museum and an opportunity to get up close and personal to archive documents.

With projects available for all age groups, local residents are invited to drop in to any of the following sessions:

Tuesday 24 January, 3pm to 7pm (Cuxton Junior School)
Saturday 28 January, 9.15am to 11.30am (Cuxton Junior School)

High Halstow
Tuesday 31 January, 3pm to 7pm (High Halstow Primary School)
Saturday 4 February, 9.30am to 11.30am (High Halstow Village Hall - with the Farmers’ Market also taking place)

Saturday 4 February, 2pm to 6pm (Kings Arms pub, 2 High Street)
Friday 10 February, 6pm to 10pm (Kings Arms pub, 2 High Street)

For more information, or to book a free pitch for your organisation, contact Nicola Waddington by phoning 01634 813179 or by email here.

9 January 2012

Hoo Church film - orders now being taken!

Before Christmas I mentioned the news that a DVD was being produced about Hoo Parish Church.

It is a look at Church life and features many events that have taken place, like the replacement of the Church flag-pole, the Remembrance Day service and many of the different concerts the Church has hosted.

The DVD has been lovingly produced, over many hours, days, weeks and months, by Hoo resident Ralph Smythe (pictured below working on the DVD).

One person who is especially excited about the DVD is former Hoo vicar Andy Harding (pictured below with Stuart Coombes a few days before Christmas). I caught up with Andy when he was in the village visiting friends and former parishioners. He said he was looking forward to watching the film - even though it will make him miss Hoo even more than he does already!

Copies of the DVD can be obtained by making a minimum donation of £5 to Hoo Parish Church. I’m sure the DVD will make an excellent keepsake.

To order your copy, contact Stuart Coombes on 01634 251705.

8 January 2012

Vote for better Broadband on the Hoo Peninsula!

Broadband coverage on the Hoo Peninsula is patchy at the best of times. I sometimes feel it would be quicker to use a pigeon to send a message!

Faster broadband services could become a reality though - thanks to a partnership between Kent County Council (KCC) and Medway Council.

Later this month, a poster campaign will be launched across Kent and Medway, encouraging residents to ‘sign up’ to the Better Broadband Scheme.

I’ve already signed-up and you can too by going online (here) and registering your support for better Broadband – it only takes 5 minutes to register! And it is important that lots of local people do.

The more people that make the effort to register, the better the prospects of KCC and Medway Council being able to secure the private sector investment required for upgrading local broadband services.

And the information gained from the registration process will also help with further funding bids to bring improvements to the area.

It’s really important to vote - so tell all your friends, family and neighbours about it - click here and make it happen!

6 January 2012

Stoke Village WI is launched!

Following last month's successful formation of Stoke Village Women's Institute, I’m really pleased to be able to mention their next event - a special social evening to welcome new members on Wednesday 11 January.

It is taking place at Stoke Village Hall (Mallard Way, Lower Stoke, ME3 9ST) at 7.30pm. So pop along and meet the new committee and exchange ideas about future events and meetings. There will also be a fun quiz to keep everyone occupied!

For more information, contact Maggie Vidgen on 01634 842026.

5 January 2012

High Halstow Walkers - January Walk

The next walk organised by the High Halstow Walkers is taking place this Sunday (8 January) around Trottiscliffe, which is a couple of miles from West Malling. The walk will be led by Alan Marshall, who has supplied the following information:

North Downs and Coldrum Barrow Walk

Meet at the Village Hall car park, School Lane, Trottiscliffe at 10am. From the village we will be walking up the Downs to Trosley Country Park (a bit of a climb, so we'll take our time!). Then we'll walk along the main path of the park, through ancient woodland. There are some spectacular views along the way looking south towards the Weald. We'll then make our descent and visit the very atmospheric Coldrum Barrow, a Neolithic burial site, and make our way across the fields back towards Trottiscliffe village, passing the ancient church on the way.

I would estimate the walk to be 5 miles or so in length. The Plough is a great pub to have a drink in afterwards, and the food is very good there too. Make sure you have some reasonably stout footwear, as inevitably some of the tracks are a bit on the muddy side at this time of year. If you're lost, running late, or want more details in advance, call me (Alan Marshall) on 07534 989438. Look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

The High Halstow Walkers organise monthly walks and details of all those planned for 2012 will follow soon. I’m told they will include Sutton Valence and Ulcombe, St Mary Hoo, Allhallows, Cranbrook, Sissinghurst, High Halstow and Egypt Bay.

4 January 2012

Volunteering at Grain Coastal Park - get your hands dirty!

If you're keen to get some fresh air and exercise following a mince-pie packed Christmas, why not come and join other volunteers at the Grain Coastal Park activity day on Sunday 15 January? More details can be found here, or by clicking the image below.

I hope to see you there!

2 January 2012

New Year Walk around Higham Marshes

I picked a good walk to start the New Year this morning - all flat and not very long!

I started out from St. Mary’s Church, in the hamlet of Church Street and within the Parish of Higham and Merston, at the very western end of the Hoo Peninsula. Before setting off, I had a good look round this lovely old building - originally Norman, but remodelled and enlarged in the 14th century. One of two Churches on the Hoo Peninsula managed by The Churches Conservation Trust (the other being St. James’ Church at Cooling) an information board inside proudly boasts that Charles Dickens’ daughter Katey married there in 1860.

With my Ordnance Survey map in hand (Gravesend, Rochester and Hoo Peninsula -163), I headed north following the Kent County Council walking route NS138, also labelled as the ‘Naughty Nuns and Nightingales’ walk. Not sure it’s the right time of year to see either though!

Although it was a lovely sunny morning, it was predictably very muddy under foot for the long stretch northwards passing ditches, pools and the nearby Gravel Works (towards Cliffe Pools). Predictably in hindsight that is - as unusually I didn’t bother to wear my walking boots. A lesson well and truly learnt!

Eventually arriving at the Shorne Marshes Nature Reserve and Higham Saltings, there were good views across the River Thames, of Cliffe Fort and, on the opposite side of the river, Coalhouse Fort.

I then headed westward along the Saxon Shore Way towards Shornmead Fort and then, after a short distance, south towards Beckley Hill - passing Barrow Hill on route. After crossing back over the railway line, I returned on the track back to St. Mary’s Church.

Although I doubt that too many ‘festive’ calories were burnt up on this walk, it was really enjoyable all the same, and getting some New Year fresh air is never a bad idea. It took just over an hour to complete - but would have been quicker with proper boots on!

For more information about St. Mary’s Church, visit the Friends of St. Mary’s Church (Higham) website by clicking here.

More information about this walk can be found here.